Wouldn’t it be nice if someone handed you an instruction manual when you start your business? Right before you open your doors someone says, “Oh, wait, you forgot to do this or that…here’s the Business 101 Manual so you never mess up again!” Instead of wondering what to do all the time you could just consult page 14 and all your problems are solved.
Unfortunately that’s not the reality of opening a business. However, there is one thing you can do that’s almost as good as having a step by step manual: finding a mentor to help you out! You may have considered it before when you heard your cousin’s friend has been in the same field for a few years now. You didn’t want to bother them, though, so you decided against it.
It’s time to change that, though, as having a solid mentor can mean the difference between a struggle and a thriving business. No matter if you snag a business pro, a government worker, or simply someone you know, getting some outside advice can help you grow tremendously.
Tips for Finding a Business Mentor
Know Your Needs
Finding a business mentor is a little more complicated than grabbing the person nearest you, though. There’s a lot to consider before you send your first email or make your first phone call. One of the first things you should ask yourself is what you need out of the relationship.
The last thing you want to happen is someone you admire coming in and not having any idea how to help you. You can’t just tell them “help me with my business” because that doesn’t really tell them where your faults lie. They’re likely going to tell you to go take some business classes before hanging up the phone.
There are more than likely a few key things you need help with in your business – gaining customers, maintaining a budget, finding a solid niche, or any number of other issues. Try to whittle them down to what you’re having the most trouble with so you don’t waste your mentor’s time. (Remember, your potential mentor is probably incredibly busy.)
If you need help isolating a niche, for example, know the particulars of your woes. If you’ve already tried a few niches and they didn’t work, don’t leave this information out. They didn’t work for a reason, and every piece of info can help you and your mentor figure out how to get you on the right track.
Finding the Right Person
Isolating your problems can also help you find the right person. Just because you can bring in the big guns for your issues doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Also, you don’t want to bring in the completely wrong person – if your problem is with finding a niche, a mentor who specializes in financial issues won’t necessarily be able to help.
If there’s a trade association near you that relates to your industry, try contacting them. These associations usually have a list of people willing to help you out. Also if you are a woman or part of a minority group there are similar associations who can assign someone to help you with your unique business challenges.
The Small Business Administration is another great agency to contact for help in finding a mentor. Each state has a list of people willing to come in and get you started on your career. Again, make sure you know exactly what you need so you can get the mentor who can help you the most.
Don’t be afraid to contact someone in your own network, either. Most small business owners know it usually takes a village to raise a successful company and are willing to help. Also, don’t assume just because you have one mentor already you can’t get another – remember, everyone has their specialty.
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